I've been having a lot of fun pike fishing on the Bristol River Avon over the last couple of months, with multiple hits of jacks on most sessions throughout October and November. Nothing particularly big had put in an appearance though and with the weather making the fishing very tough throughout December and into January I was beginning to worry that the elusive monster that I'd been chasing wouldn't make it's way to my landing net... It's been so bad recently that I've had to resort to carp fishing!
But this week was different: the weather has been cold and clear with little or no rain and the water levels on the flood site have been steadily dropping. All of which was pointing to a potential pike session on the Friday! However my hopes were dashed as on Thursday night, a massive rain storm swept across Bristol... When I checked the river levels on Friday morning, there was a slight height increase but my main fear was water clarity: would the river be a chocolate unfishable soup? Add to the mix an unexpected sore throat and I wasn't feeling too chipper...
Despite all this and the forecast of snow (snow?!) for the morning it was decided that I had to go. It'd been too long and I was desperate!
Stomping through the 1st field it was apparent that last night's downpour had done its work and turned the banksides into a quagmire. The cattle grid swim was a slippery mess of mud and silt and although I managed to get the rods set up and in the water, I wasn't really 'feeling' it. After giving it 30 minutes without a sign I decided to reel in only to find both rods snagged... Whenever the river floods, loads of tree branches and rubbish gets swept downstream adding loads of new snaggs and the trebles had lodged in something. Luckily I got both back without snapping off but the baits were gone. Not the best start...
Rather than dropping into any of the open water spots on my way upstream I decided to head straight to the tree swim that's done me so well in the past (it saved me from a blank on my last session). In terms of slack water, it's probably one of the best spots on the whole stretch and although it gets a bit of a hammering, it's always worth a go - and on this occasion, it really came up with the goods...
Dumping the gear well back from the waters edge, I re-baited my rod with a whole sardine and crept forward to cast towards the snaggy tree. The bait hit the water and I knelt down to put the rod on the rest and tighten up the slack. At which point the braid jumped in my hand... And again. And then started to pull line from the baitrunner. Surely I must've snagged on some debris moving downstream? Just in case, I tightened down and struck at which point all hell broke loose!
Fish on! The fight this thing gave was incredible and it was a real struggle to keep it under control and away from the snags. Most of the fights I've had from river pike have been quite short but this one really went for it, stripping braid from the reel on some massive lunges. It was quite a struggle on the steep bankside to get it into the net but eventually an amazingly looking pike slipped over the net cord.
What a beast! I couldn't quite believe it, the whole thing from casting to landing the fish was a blur and with the bait being in the water for around 10 seconds before it made off with it, this has to be the quickest bite from a pike I've ever experienced! Weighing in at 19lb this was the 3rd biggest fish I've had from the Bristol River Avon and the fish of the season for me - I was completely made up. The head on it was huge and it was quite a struggle to haul it up for the camera but as you can see from the look on my face, I was made up and incredibly glad that I'd decided to make the trip to the river today.
After resting the 'beast' in the margins for 5 minutes it swam off strong downstream and I set about getting both rods out. I had a feeling that after all that comotion that the swim would be dead and wasn't surprised when 30 minutes slipped by without another sign that there were any other fish in the area. Before moving on I baited the swim with a mix of leftover fish scraps, liquidized bream, a tin of tuna fish and thai fish sauce. It completely stinks but I'm convinced it draws fish in!
Over the next 3 hours I moved further upstream and tried four more swims without so much as a knock or a tap. Although the water level was good the flow was pretty fast which made swim options tricky and having sat in the incredibly cold wind for far too long I decided to stomp back across the fields heading upstream. Arriving back in the tree swim, I tried 1st the left hand side and after 30 minutes of nothing moved back to the right hand side. Would my prebaiting bring the swim back to life?
As it turns out yes! The rod cast to the exact same spot towards the snaggy tree signalled a drop back about a minute after casting out and after a strike and a short fight this fine looking jack slipped into the net. Amazing, two fish from the same spot - proving that the river can always throw up a surprise.
I tried a couple more spots on the walk back to the car but there were no takers and I spent the last hour in the cattle grid swim watching the sun go down over the river. To have landed my fish of the season and a back up jack on an incredibly cold day with a dose of man flu has made my fishing year so far but the question is, does the river have any more surprises to throw at me before the 15th of March?!
I've had such an amazing run of excellent pike sessions on the Bristol River Avon over the last month or so, with loads of jack's and a couple of nearly double fish falling to ledgered sardines. But now we're into late November the weather is becoming a much bigger factor...
We had really heavy rain overnight on Wednesday and from checking the water levels on Friday morning I could see the river was higher than usual. As I walked into the 1st field to my new 'banker swim' just on the bend my heart sunk... Although there'd been a frost and it was very cold (great for pikeing, not great for fingers!) I could see that the river was very coloured and hacking through a quite a pace. Several of the swims that I'd fished on previous sessions were unfishable due to being the underwater!
But out went the rods and I couldn't quite believe it when the left hand rod ripped off minutes after the bait got the deck! However I struck into nothing... Very odd...
Unfortunately this set the theme for the day. My baits were being attacked and ripped to shreds minutes after being cast out. I'm 99.9% that the coloured water had brought the eels out in force and they were enjoying a free meal. It's happened to me before on the Avon and although eels are on the endangered list, they seem to be prolific in the river.
I persevered though, moving through five swims but as the sun started to sink at around 4pm I packed down with nothing to show for my efforts.
Damn. My 1st blank.
After a couple of really productive sessions I was really hopeful of a couple of bites. I'd come armed with the ever reliable sprats, sardines and mackerel and the plan was to hit the same swims as before using the same methods of drifting and ledgering.
But after moving 3 times with nothing to show for it, it was clear today was going today was going to be tough...
As it turned out, the only bite of the day came late afternoon after moving to the 6th swim. The 'dead tree swim' has produced the goods in the past and this session was no different - a good looking micro jack pike that took a stinky sardine that was nearly as long as itself!
And that was it. I didn't get so much as a knock in any of the other swims but it was lovely to be out on the bank in the unseasonal November weather.
Fingers crossed it's not a sign of things to come! I've hit the Crane Stretch a couple of times over the last month so maybe a trip to Swineford for the next session is in order?
Monday 9 October 2017
We're into October now and that means three things: the carp gear gets packed down, the pike gear comes out and the river sessions kick off!
I had such a great season on the River Avon fishing for Pike last year with two personal bests in consecutive weeks, a 18lb followed by a whopping 23lb fish! So understandably I've been hanging out for October to get out there again.
For the 1st session of the season, I decided to head over the the Crane Stretch at Keynsham. I've not visited this end of the river for a while now as Swineford is my goto stretch over the spring and summer for chub. It's usually wider and faster flowing but today the water was slow moving through the weir and as I wandered upstream, the swims looked better and better.
The session started slowly without a knock or a tap in the 1st hour. I'd headed to my favourite tree swim opposite the soap works but it didn't appear that there were any fish in the area so I upped sticks and headed to the dead tree swim where I'd managed a fish right at the end of the previous season.
It didn't take long... A change of tactic produced the bite: I'd been using two ledged baits but switched the left rod to a sprat rig which I'd cast upstream and allowed to drift down in the current. I was just doing a piece to video when the alarm sounded and the rod tip started to jangle!
Unluckily for me, the fish (a small jack) came to the bank and then dived into a very snaggy set of tree roots to the left of the swim. I managed to get the pike out of the snag but the hook pulled as I was just slipping the landing net into the water... Damn it!
But the rule with pike fishing is: if you lose one, get the bait back in the water toot sweet as you might get another chance... And sure enough, the rod had been back out for all of 5 minutes and off it went!
This time I managed to steer the pike away from the snag and a brilliant little jack slipped into the net.
Not a monster but after loosing one I was over the moon to have put one on the bank. The fish was in great condition and shot away when I released him, happy days.
I did get another chance ten or so minutes later but I think an early strike may have bumped another jack off the hooks. Not to worry, it's always better to strike early and loose a one than risk deep hooking a greedy pike.
So after 15 minutes of no signs, I upped sticks again and headed down to a swim I've not tried before but certainly looks pikey. It's pretty much the furthest I walked over the fields towards Swineford and being a thinner part of the river right next to an inflow pipe I thought it'd do me a fish.
But after half an hour without a sign I decided to move again, spending 15 minutes in a swim just past the tree swim and finally settling in one of the last fishable swims heading downstream back towards the car. It's a tricky swim, very cramped and only really fishable if the flow is very slow. I'd had fish from here once before so I figured it was worth spending the last 30 minutes here before making the dash to the car and back across Bristol to pick the kids up from school.
Luckily for me, I was rewarded 5 minutes before packing the rods down with another fantastic looking jack pike! As with the other runs, this one tore off all around the river and put up a very good account of itself.
So not a bad session, not bad at all. I've just come back from Tesco where I've replenished my stocks of bait: loads of sprats, herring, mackerel and sardines - here's hoping they'll bag me a few more fish over the next week or so!